There has never been more opposition to high stakes standardized testing.
Yet the corporate controlled media is pretending that the resistance is over.
Parents are refusing to let their kids take these tests at the same or even greater numbers than ever.
Fewer states require high stakes tests as graduation exams and/or use them to evaluate their teachers. Across the nation, states are cutting the size of standardized tests or eliminating them altogether. And more state legislatures passed laws explicitly allowing parents to opt their children out of the tests.
Yet Education Week published an article a few days ago called “Anti-Test Movement Slows to a Crawl.”
I think we have different definitions of “Slows” and “Crawl.”
That may not be surprising since we also seem to have different definitions of “Anti-Test.”
The Opt Out Movement is not “Anti-Test.” It is anti-high stakes standardized test.
It is against the federal government forcing states to use corporate written, corporate graded and corporate remediated standardized assessments.
It is against the federal government requiring each state to participate in a corporate boondoggle that not only wastes billions of tax dollars that could be better spent to educate children but also unfairly assesses their academic progress and feeds the push to privatize public schools.
Calling these folks “Anti-Test” is like labeling those pushing for stricter gun regulations “Anti-Gun” or smearing those protesting government corruption as “Anti-Government.”
And that’s just the title!
The author Alyson Klein further misdirects readers by conflating opt out rates and test resistance.
She implied that the only measure of opposition was the percentage of students who opt out. However, as noted above, there are multiple measures of resistance.
Moreover, few states advertise their opt out rates. Especially after the movement began, states made that information harder to come by to dissuade more people from joining it.
Of those states where information is available, Klein puts the most negative possible spin on the facts in order to make her point – a point that it seems to me is not at all justified.
For instance, Klein writes:
“At least some of the steam has gone out of the opt-out movement in states such as New Jersey and New York, considered hotbeds of anti-testing fervor.”
In New York, Opt out numbers remained at approximately 20% – the same as they have for the past three years.
And New York is one of our most densely populated states. That percentage represents more than 225,000 parents across the Empire State who refused to let their children take the tests despite threats from many administrators and district officials for doing so.
In New Jersey, opt out rates were marginally lower this year than last year. They went from 7% to 5%. But once again New Jersey is a populous state. That percentage represents about 68,500 students.
In addition, this is after massive opt outs three years ago that forced the state to change its federally mandated assessment. Testing boycotts pushed the state education association to get rid of four PARCC assessments and allow students who fail the remaining two tests to take an alternative assessment. And this is in a state where there is no law explicitly allowing parents to opt out of the tests.
I don’t know if I’d call that running out of steam.
Moreover, opt out rates have increased in other states for which we have data. For instance, test refusal is on the rise in heartland states like Minnesota.
And it nearly doubled in Utah over the past two years to about 6%. In some schools in the Beehive State, rates are much higher. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, 1 in 5 students in the Park City school district refused to take the tests.
Though my own state of Pennsylvania has been mum on last year’s opt outs, from my own personal experience as a teacher in suburban Pittsburgh, I never had more students boycott our federally mandated standardized test than I did last year.
There were so many they had to be quarantined in a special room.
Moreover, an increasing number of parents ask me about the issue, express concern and wonder about their rights.
So even when examining just the rate of opt out, I don’t see any reason to assume the movement is slowing down.
On the contrary, it is picking up steam with multiple victories.
As recently as 2012, half of all U.S. states required high school exit exams in order for students to graduate. Today that number has dropped to 12. The reason? Exit exams don’t raise student achievement – they raise the dropout rate. At least that’s what The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences tells us.
Another positive sign – seven states have stopped using value added measures (VAM) to judge teachers. This is the highly controversial practice of assessing educators based on their students test scores – a practice that has never been proven fair to teachers or effective in helping students learn. Six states have dropped this requirement altogether: Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oklahoma. Connecticut still gathers the information but cannot use it in the teacher’s “summative rating.” And other states like New Mexico still use value added measures but have reduced the weight given to student test scores.
Moreover, let’s not forget how many states have slashed the size of the high stakes tests they’re giving to students. After the recent wave of opt outs and public outcry, state education departments have ensured that testing at least takes up less time. This includes New York, Maryland, New Mexico, California, Minnesota, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Washington, Illinois, West Virginia, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. Some of this is because the PARCC test used in 21 states was slashed by 90 minutes.
And when it comes to opt out, two more states – Idaho and North Dakota – now have explicit laws on the books allowing parents to refuse the test for their children – in whole or in part. That brings the total number of states up to 10. It would have been 11, but Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, vetoed an opt-out bill. The federal government still wants us to penalize these districts for non-participation in flagrant violation of its authority. But as more states respect parents’ rights on this matter, it will be increasingly difficult for the U.S. Department of Education to continue trampling them.
And speaking of the federal government, some states are taking advantage of the wiggle room in the federal law that governs K-12 education – the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – to allow students to avoid standardized testing entirely. Some states are implementation performance assessments instead. Kids can use a portfolio of classwork to demonstrate learning instead of getting a grade on a corporate-written standardized test. New Hampshire, for instance, has pioneered this approach with a program that now involves half the state’s districts.
These are not the signs of a movement that is slowing to a crawl.
It just makes sense that some of the rhetoric of the movement may have become less forceful with the enactment of the federal ESSA.
Many had hoped for a better law – one that did away with federally mandated testing altogether.
And that could still happen sooner than many think. Next year it will be time to reauthorize the law again.
It took Congress six years to reauthorize the federal education law last time. Perhaps our duly elected representatives can be coaxed into doing their jobs a bit quicker this time.
There is already some proposed legislation to make positive changes. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) introduced legislation last year to replace annual assessments with grade-span tests. The United States is, after all, one of the only countries in the world – if not the only one – to require students be tested every year. These proposed changes are not nearly enough, but they’re a step in the right direction.
One of the biggest obstacles to abolishing federally mandated testing last time was that some of the oldest and most well funded civil rights organizations opposed it. Many of them get their money and support from the same billionaires who profit off of the standardized testing and privatization industries.
However, that support for testing was short lived. Already the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has revoked it returning to a call for opposition to testing.
If our nation survives the many crises of the Donald Trump administration, there is no reason our future cannot be bright.
We have the support, we have the tools, we just need the chance to do right by our children.
And the pendulum is swinging back our way.
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